Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Fun!

Well, I guess these are too late to try this Halloween season but you can file them away for next year! My kids love to do silly things to jazz up their food for the holidays, especially at Halloween! If I was smart I would do silly things to their food year round because it always makes them eat it better if it looks like a ghost, or a face, or the Eiffel Tower. Okay, so maybe the Eiffel tower is a bit extreme but there are lots of easy ways to turn regular food into "Monster Food"! Here are a few of the recipes I used to feed my little "monsters" this year! Hope you enjoy!

First, are the pigs in a blanket mummies! These are a favorite among my kids! I tried them with hot dogs once but they weren't quite as we usually just make them with Little Smokies (because my kids will eat almost anything if it is bite sized). A funny story about my 2 year old is that she thought we were saying "Mommy's" as in those belong to Mommy. So she kept trying to give all of them to me and she would say "here Mommy, yours!". So cute!

Anyway, the picture pretty much gives you the recipe but here it is anyway:

2 cans of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
1 pack of Hillshire Farms Little Smokies
2 Tbsp. Mustard

Cut the crescent rolls into long thin strips and wrap around the little smokies (leaving room for the mummy face). Bake according to crescent roll package directions. Let cool for 2 minutes. Using a toothpick and the mustard make two eyes on each mummy face! I usually use regular yellow mustard because that is what my kids like but I like to dip mine in Dijon! Super easy and perfect for a quick snack after trick-or-treating!

Next is Monster taco Salad. I have a small Halloween idea book from Taste of Home. I'd seen this idea in it several years ago but usually didn't have time on Halloween to make taco salad. Since Halloween was on Sunday this year I had a little extra time and decided to give it a shot! The great thing was that I didn't have to buy anything special for this recipe, you just organize the ingredients differently to make it "spooky". Here's how it turned out!

I told my 4 year old to eat it before it ate her and she said, "Mom, that's just silly. It doesn't even have a mouth"! Obviously you can use any taco salad recipe to make this Halloween creation but here is how I make taco salad if you are looking for a new recipe!

1-2 lb. lean ground beef
2 cans Rotel tomatoes and green chile mix (drained)
1 packet taco seasoning mix
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 can corn
2 cans black beans
1 tomato sliced (slice it and then cut each slice in half for the eyes)
1 can sliced olives
sour cream
shredded cheese
tortilla chips

Cook the beef in a large skillet, drain. Add drained tomatoes and chiles. Add taco seasoning mix. (The extra water from the tomatoes cooking is usually enough to absorb the seasoning but if you need to you can add 1/2 cup of water to the mix). Crush the tortilla chips on the serving plates. Top with romaine, meat mixture, cooked black beans, corn, and cheese. To make the eyes place two tomato slices on top of salad. Top with a dollop of sour cream and an olive slice to make the eyeball! That's it!

And finally, ghost pudding pie! My mom used to make us ghost pie every Halloween and we'd eat it when we got home from trick-or-treating! I'm pretty sure my mom made it with the real kind of pudding that you cook on the stove so hers was much better than mine! Here is my copycat recipe using instant pudding:

2 small boxes instant chocolate pudding
3 1/2 cups milk
1 Oreo pie crust (or any brand of chocolate pie crust)
16 oz. whipped cream
2 chocolate chips (for the eyes)

Mix pudding and milk together. Add 1 cup of whipped cream. Mix until smooth. Pour pudding mixture into pie crust. Refrigerate until set (at least 2 hours). Use the remaining whipped cream to make a ghost on top and whatever other decorations you want on there. Place the two chocolate chips to make the eyes! Here's a pic of our ghost pie in all its glory! The blob is supposed to be the moon... I'm okay at cooking, not art! :-)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Soups On

Okay, so soup is one of my favorite foods to make! For a lot of reasons! 1) I can make it whenever I want during the day and keep it warm in a crockpot. 2) I can make the whole meal pretty much in one dish so I don't have a ton of pans to clean. 3) I know my kids will eat it even if it's loaded up with veggies! 4) It gives me an excuse to make a bunch of yummy rolls! and 5)It's usually pretty cheap!

Last night we had broccoli cheese soup (My 4 year old's favorite) with 1 hr. rolls from Jenny's food blog. So first things first: here's the link to the rolls recipe. Jenny's 1 hour roll recipe! They are awesome and they only take 1 hour start to finish (including bake time!)

The soup recipe is from a cookbook my mom sent me a few years ago that the ladies at her church put together! I made a few variations but I tried to be good and follow the recipe for the most part!

Cheesy Broccoli Soup

6 cups fresh broccoli chopped (you can even chop the entire stalk up and put it in)
1 small yellow onion chopped
1 1/2 qt. chicken broth (about 4 cans chicken broth)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
3/4 cup butter
2 cups milk (the recipe calls for half n half but I always just use milk and it's been fine)
3/4 cup flour
16 oz. Velveeta cheese

Boil broth, broccoli, onion and seasonings until broccoli is tender. Remove about 1/2 cup of the broth and discard. Add butter to broccoli and broth. In a small bowl mix flour and milk together. Slowly add the milk/flour mixture to the rest of the broth. Add cheese in chunks and heat slowly until melted. I like it plain but my kids like to put toppings on all their food so they top it with bacon and cheese! Enjoy!!

Product Review of Dyson

I want to take a minute and dedicate this post to my new true love...the Dyson! Right as we were moving to the new house my old vacuum (A bissel) broke! So we ended up having to vacuum our entire downstairs with a dustbuster so we could pass our cleaning inspection! Good times! After the vacuum broke I was a little shy about buying a new vacuum. It's hard to commit when you've had your heart broken so many times before. Anyway, after 3 months of borrowing my mom's vacuum every time the girls made a mess (which is frequently) I finally found a new vacuum that I was ready to take the plunge with!

I found the Dyson DC14 on and flagged it so that I would get daily emails about changes in price. (By the way we LOVE amazon here so I'm sure that it will be a subject of a post in the coming weeks!) Anyway, one day it came on sale for about $150 off the price so I grabbed it! So far I've been thrilled with it! We have berber carpet upstairs and in the basement but most of the living areas are wood and tile. The dyson has been great for all floor types! And the coolest part is the extension/attachment part! Instead of the hose extension coming out of the top of the vacuum it comes out of the bottom so when you are pulling on it, it doesn't pull the whole thing over. So if you are vacuuming around baseboards the rest of the vacuum just follows around behind you instead of having to move it every 10 seconds. The handle itself unclicks and becomes the extension it give you about 3 feet of reach to vacuum ceiling and blinds too! Oh yeah, and the whole thing is yellow which is awesome...because everyone wants to vacuum when the vacuum looks totally sweet! If you are intersted in seeing a little movie about the extension part you can see one here:

I'm kind of a walking commercial for things when I find something I like. So when I got my new vacuum, I only vacuumed half of the stairs so that my husband could see the difference it made! Which was huge! I also couldn't believe how much junk it pulled out of my carpets and rugs! Anyway, after Alex got done laughing at me for acting like a vacuum salesman, he too was impressed with the difference it made! Anyway, if life finds you without a working vacuum I would recommend looking at a Dyson. They do cost more than other brands but so far it has been worth the difference and if you don't mind waiting for a good deal you can find them on sale online all the time!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Apples

Well, every year my daughter wants to dip apples! I love making caramel apples with her but have never been a huge fan of eating them. I've tried a lot of different recipes and apples types but this year I think we finally nailed it!

The first thing I did differently this year was to use granny smith apples. They are not my favorite to snack on but when it comes to caramel apples, the crunchier the better I say! I use golden delicious for a lot of recipes but they are just too soft for dipping.

The second thing was that I dipped the whole thing in chocolate! If at first you don't like something, dip it chocolate, and try it again! :-) They tasted yummier and my daughter thought it was twice as fun to double dip them! Plus they look super fancy even though they are super easy!

Here's what I used this year:

10 granny smith apples
2 bags Kraft Caramels (they usually have these in the halloween candy section with the melting directions on the bag)
4 Tbls. water
10 sticks of some kind (I was thrown for a bit of a loop since they usually include the sticks in the caramel bag...but they weren't in there this year. I used some crafty popsicle sticks my daughter had!)
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup toasted coconut

So first toast the coconut. Funny story about toasted coconut...a few years ago I was making my first recipe with toasted coconut and I didn't know that you had to toast it yourself. So I looked and looked and couldn't find it! I finally asked a store employee where the toasted coconut was and she looked at me like an idiot (which I kind of was) but then she nicely explained how to toast it myself. It's kind of like walking into the store and asking where to buy toast or a baked potato or something!

Anyway, toast the coconut at 350 for about 10 min. Check it every 2 minutes and toast until it's the color you'd like! Next melt the caramel with water according to package directions. Wash and dry each apple thoroughly. Remove the stem and push a stick into the top of each apple. Dip each apple into caramel sauce until coated. Wipe the bottom of the apple and place on wax paper. Let sit about 10 minutes to set slightly. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and cream until smooth but not boiling. Dip each caramel apple into the chocolate. You can do a few different designs with the chocolate by dipping them only partially in the chocolate of drizzling the chocolate over them! You can see some of the designs we cam up with below! Just have fun with it! Allow the chocolate to cool on the apple for about 1 minute and then roll in toasted coconut immediately. Enjoy!

Some Thoughts On Miscarriage

In my previous post I talked about how Neighbor Dorothy had some sad things happen to her in her life. One is that she had a little boy who died at age 4. I think that her radio show and the busy life that it brings is her way of dealing with the sorrow from that tragedy.

As I thought more about that I realized that a big reason that I'm starting this project is because I have had a personal struggle with going through a miscarriage! My first reaction was to lie in bed for a few days and cry. And when I was done with that my next reaction was to take on a billion projects so that I wouldn't be able to think about it anymore! Like paint the bathroom, finish the girls scrapbooks, throw a pampered chef party, volunteer at my daughters school, potty train my 2 year old, and hey...why not start a blog!!

So, I decided since I now have a new blog (thank you crazy hormonal Julia) I will use this forum to talk about what a weird and hard thing miscarriage really is! It's common enough that you don't really get too much special treatment when you go in to the obstetrician but while they might be used to it, I sure wasn't! I had no idea what was going on, I had to wait a week to get an ultrasound to make sure it really was a miscarriage, and not that many people knew I had even been pregnant so I felt pretty isolated!

I guess that the hardest thing was that I am a planner. And as soon as I found out that I was pregnant I immediately figured out when they were due, when we could get new family pictures, how far apart the kids would be, etc etc etc. So while on the outside nothing really changed (We had been a family or four and we were still going to be a family of four) I felt this great sense of loss because I'd already planned out and imagined our family with 3 children!

I can't even imagine what it must be like to have a miscarriage before you start having children. It gave me great insight into what my friends with infertility must be going through. It's hard to want something so bad and not be in control of getting it. When it first started happening to me I just felt like I needed to lay down and not move. That somehow I could stop it from happening, but alas I was not in control.

The craziest thing to me was that until I had a miscarriage I don't think I'd ever talked about miscarriage with anyone. I had no idea what to expect or what the symptoms were. I didn't even know that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage! Once I finally told some of my friends the truth I was floored to find out that almost all of them had gone through at least one miscarriage themselves! So I guess that for all the time we sit around talking about child birth and epidurals and pregnancy, maybe we should give a little time to discussing miscarriage! I know it's a hard subject but I was so grateful for those who shared their stories with me and hope that someday I can pay it forward by helping someone else cope with their loss!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book Review of Standing in the Rainbow

Well since Standing in the Rainbow is partially responsible for the blog name, I think I'll start off with a book review of the book! Standing in the Rainbow is the second book by Fannie Flagg that takes place in Elmwood Springs, MO. It has many of the same characters that we meet in Welcome to the World Baby Girl and again in Can't Wait to Get to Heaven. I actually read Standing in the Rainbow first and it remains my favorite of the 3. (Although I love all of them!)

Standing in the Rainbow begins in the 1940s and continues through the year 2000. While it focuses on a handful of main characters there are dozens of supporting characters that intertwine their stories with one another and keep the story moving forward! With so many characters doing so many things you would think many of them would have to be one dimensional, but Flagg does an amazing job of fleshing out even the smallest character's personality. You have a sense, that given the time, she would be able to write an entire book about each person!

While the plot contains some pretty fantastic events you still feel like it could really happen to someone simply because the characters are so true to life. She is a master of starting a character out one way and chronicling their evolution into a completely different person! The way that the characters interact is hysterical and makes you wish that you lived in Elmwood Springs.

While my favorite characters are probably Norma Warren (because I'm a bit neurotic like her) and Aunt Elner (because I'm a little crazy like her), the character I would most like to meet is Neighbor Dorothy! I seriously hope that somewhere a woman like this exists and if she does I want to be her best friend! She's described as a pretty woman who is a bit overweight. Always cheery although she's had heartache in her life. One of the things I admire about her character is that instead of demanding help from everyone around her she gives help to those in need. I know that when I'm feeling down I have to get out and do something. I could pretty easily just sit around and feel sorry for myself for a long time but usually if I can put that energy into doing something constructive (instead of feeling sorry for myself) it works out much better for me and all involved. So Dorothy does her radio show, takes care of her children, sews, reads, rents out rooms, and cooks and bakes for the whole town! I just think I 'd have a ton of fun with her and I loved reading about her life! And I want to try her caramel cake!

The book also discusses the start of Gospel music. The Oatman family is an up and coming gospel group that Neighbor Dorothy meets at one of their performances. She winds up letting their daughter stay with her during another performance and eventually takes their daughter in when she is done performing with her family. She is a shy, quiet, petite girl who eventually meets a man in town and marries him. Her husband ends up becoming the governor and that story really takes over the plot from then on. I won't go into the rest of the details too much because it does have some pretty good bends and twists that kept me turning pages way past my bedtime, so I won't spoil it for you!

My favorite type of books are generational fiction books and this one takes on a big span of time! I love when you have plenty of time to get to know the characters and hear their stories out until the end! And while they all have their ups and downs they always get the ending they deserve! For the most part Flagg gives the good guys good endings and the bad guys bad endings and that is the way I like it! It makes for a fun read! And when I'm busy and worried about things a fun read is exactly what I want to pick up!

Libby's Pumpkin Pie Recipe

So with the canned pumpkin shortage finally being finished I can use up my cans of pumpkin I've been hoarding for the last year! Yesterday we made the Libby's pumpkin pie recipe for my mother-in-laws birthday!

There are a lot of things out there that I will buy generic, but for canned pumpkin I usually do get Libby's because their pumpkin tastes so good but also because I think their recipe is the best so they deserve my business! :-) My 4 year old helped mix the pie together and she was very excited that it smelled so good! She kept having me smell it! Silly girl!

Here's the recipe:
1 can Libby's canned pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie mix)
3/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1 (12 oz) can of evaporated milk
1 unbaked pie crust

Mix the sugar and pumpkin pie spice together in a small bowl. In a large bowl beat the eggs. Add the pumpkin and sugar mixture. While stirring, gradually add the evaporated milk. Pour into unbaked pie crust.

Bake at 425 for 15 min. Lower temperature to 350 and bake for another 40-50 minutes or until set. Let cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Refrigerate or serve immediately!

I decorated the pie seen here with whipped cream place in a cake decorating bag and used a star tip and round tip for the words and border! Yum!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Losing the Pearls

The word homemaker can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Some may think of a women in pearls and heels vacuuming the living room while her 2.5 perfect children enjoy her county fair blue ribbon winning chocolate chip cookies in the background! To others it may just be something they write without thinking while filling in the occupation section of a new patient form at the dentist's office! My personal belief is that everyone who has a home is a homemaker! We all make our home in to one thing or another whether we mean to or not!

Deep down all of us would like to have a home where we and our families can feel safe and peaceful. Whether you are 17 years old or 70 you want to create a place that is comfortable to you! If you are single you want a place that you and your visitors can feel welcome. If you are married you want a place for you and your spouse to feel comfortable. If you have children you want a place where your children want to be and can bring their friends. Not only can we achieve these outcomes without too much fuss we can do it without wearing pearls or winning blue ribbons at the fair!

I created this blog in order to keep track of the things that I am doing in order to make my home the kind of place I want it to be! I know there are hundreds of magazines and television shows full of tips on how to keep a home, but after seeing image after image of perfectly decorated homes and reading the stories of the seemingly flawless women who created them, I usually feel more like taking up drinking than being inspired to try some of their tips! So if you are like me, well-intended but not quite perfect, this might just be the blog for you! It contains some of my favorite recipes, products, books, household tips, parenting theories, you name it! Maybe you will find some favorites among them too!